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The Subconscious Seed of Hip-Hop

By Kathleen X and Kareem Abdullah | Last updated: Sep 16, 2008 - 12:47:00 PM

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Examining its Effect and Possibilities

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Justin X (holding microphone) listens as a panelist responds to an audience member. Photos: Kareem Abdullah

“If the youth were organized, politicized and highly enlightened, then, the two-year-olds that learn your rap can learn more than ABCs, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, because they are listening to you more than they are listening to their parents and teachers. Will you accept your responsibility as a leader?” —The Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan

(FinalCall.com) - From the impoverished ghettos across the cities of the United States, to affluent suburbia and beyond, hip-hop has gradually developed, throughout the years, to be an influential force to be reckoned with. The above quote was excerpted from a lecture titled “Accept the Responsibility of Leadership,” wherein the Hon. Min. Louis Farrakhan challenged the leaders of the hip-hop community. He stated, “I do not think it is an accident that music and culture have moved to this time and that the spoken word has become that which is affecting youth throughout the entire planet. When you are a rapper and you understand your leadership role, you must understand that with leadership comes responsibility.”

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Nutmeg (Sis. Connie Muhammad) performs her soulful single 9,000 Miles.

On Aug. 30, in Phoenix, Arizona, Sister Connie Muhammad, as well as several Believers from Mosque Number 32, in Phoenix, held a youth forum which posed the question, “Is hip-hop music controlled by corporate America?” The forum, which was hosted by Brother Justin X of the Phoenix Youth Task Force, featured several panelists from Phoenix and surrounding areas. The panelists were: Brother Lawrence Muhammad, founder of the I AM YOUTH Foundation of Las Vegas, Nevada; Sister Wisdom, a poet and host of VYBE Poetry Night in Scottsdale, Arizona; Detective Jerry Oliver, member of the African-American Police Advisory Board; Brother True Original Thought, a freelance hip-hop writer who is a member of the Nation of Gods & Earths; and local Phoenix Christian rapper “The God Chaser.”

The panelists engaged in a lengthy deliberative dialogue session. They entertained such questions as “Are our youth in trouble?” and “Does hip-hop have something to do with it?” While all parties agreed that our youth were indeed “in trouble,” there was significant variation in each panelist’s position, in terms of hip-hop’s complicity in such trouble.

Detective Jerry Oliver, referencing instances when he’s encountered youth that use drugs and carry weapons, said he didn’t consider hip-hop totally responsible, but it is certainly an influential factor. Brother Ronald X echoed part of Det. Oliver’s sentiment, suggesting that the music industry forces hip-hop artists, among others, to put out music that is negative and immoral.

True Original Thought, though in partial agreement, noted positive societal contributions by notable hip-hop artists, namely Lil’ Wayne and David Banner, who gave considerable aid to Hurricane Katrina victims, and Jay Z, who has given significant contributions to educational causes.

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The Ranks (Arvence X, Timothy 6X and Kareem Abdullah) wait patiently for their chance to move the crowd.

However, the hip-hop debate, in terms of its negative or positive effect on Black youth, is not altogether new. There are literally thousands of articles written on the subject, either in support of, or against the theory that hip-hop effects youth negatively. For instance, in an article titled “How Hip-Hop Holds Blacks Back,” John H. McWhorter, a Berkeley University linguistics professor, writes: “By reinforcing the stereotypes that long hindered Blacks, and by teaching young Blacks that a thuggish adversarial stance is the properly ‘authentic’ response to a presumptively racist society, rap retards Black success.”

Another article, called “Experts debate hip-hop’s influence on American culture, youth, for better or for worse,” by Chris Killion, states, “Many people have seen rap have positive effects on society. It is an artistic form and allows people to express themselves in a positive way.” It further suggests, “Rap also allows for young Blacks to articulate a certain cultural perspective and help others understand what is going on in the minds of young Black people in the urban environment.”

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The Break Street Breakers dazzle the crowd with spectacular B-Boy techniques.

Directly following the discussion, several musical acts demonstrated how to perform positive music and dance. Among the performers were: The New Gospel Connection, The God Chaser, Camille Sledge, Lil’ Salt Arizona, and the Break Street Breakers, all of whom reside in the Phoenix area. Also performing, was The Original Man, of Waterloo, Iowa, and Chicago’s own, The Ranks. Each act delivered a spectacular performance, which left the crowd with hope that positivity still has a chance, with hip-hop.

When asked of what inspired her to hold such an event, Sister Connie answered, “A White Man’s Heaven is a Black Man’s Hell,” by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. She stated, “The Minister was able to put truth to music, and keep you captivated. And the song was like eight minutes long!” She continued, “Hip-hop uses a beat that captivates. We’ve been able to captivate each other with just a beat and a lot of nonsense. By putting the truth to that hip-hop beat, it could be unstoppable.”